The first dark touch of winter reveals itself at the grocery store. It seems almost a cliche, this kind of moment in a unremarkable place, occurring in the middle of unremarkable activity.
David is there stocking up on some of the foods Penny favors, as well as diapers. He has learned never to leave the store without a package of them, serving as a kind of talisman against the disaster of running out in the middle of the night.
“David? Oh, hello! It’s been ages. How are you? How’s little, what’s your baby’s name, again?” The voice, shrill and full of forced cheer, is familiar. So is the face, someone he met peripherally, but the name remains hidden in his cloudy memory.
Still, he smiles as warmly as he can. “Penny. She’s doing well, thank you. How are you?” He still hopes, at this moment, that he can keep this interaction short enough that the woman in front of him will not realize he has forgotten her name. She has the frosted blond hair, puffy black jacket, clunky heeled boots that are all on trend in this town. Her face shows its age, one of the few natural things about her. Maybe she was part of the food bank, or maybe Sasha knew her? He cannot connect the dots.
He has plenty of time to try, as his question sets off a long answer about her job (at the county) and her neighbors’ noisy dogs. David makes nonverbal sounds of commiseration and several times attempts to bring the conversation to a close. In one of them, he mentions Rosa.
“How are you managing, bringing up that little girl on your own? Babies are so hard, they never sleep, and yet you look great, well-rested,” the woman had said. Seeing a chance to escape, David says yes, it’s great he has help, but his babysitter will be expecting him back any minute as her shift ends soon. He gilds the lily, adding that she’s a nurse, which makes it so easy to trust her with Penny.
“Not that nurse? What was her name, Juanita?” the woman poses.
“Rosa,” David says.
“Oh, that’s right. Well, you are a kind person, allowing her to be alone with your little girl. I’m not sure I would.”
A hot wave of fear melts the tendons around David’s knees, which threaten to buckle. “Why not?” he asks robotically, not at all sure he wants to know.